Through a Jungian Lens

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Victims of Fate

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One of the things I love about this time of year is the appearance of new life, new growth on old plants and trees.  These leaves on a poplar tree glow with life and are unmarked by any hardships of life so far.  Not too many days after taking this photo, I got to see my youngest grandchild, a boy of just six months.  Like these leaves, he is unmarked by hardships.  Life is all about promise.  Since this photo was taken, these leaves have had to experience a blizzard and harsh winds.  Some of the leaves have been blown off the tree, a few have been scared and allowed to continue their growth on the parent tree.  Life for a leaf is all about fate.

Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College  – Thomas Gray

“Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
‘Tis folly to be wise.”

This poem by Thomas Grey written in 1742 can be found here.  I wanted to include this selection from the long poem because of the expression, “ignorance is bliss” that has become a familiar complaint used by many.  I know I have used a variation of the expression, “as happy as a carrot” in order to express the same concept that being aware, being conscious, has its costs on the psyche.  That awareness as described in these expressions, is of being aware of one’s state as victim.  Without consciousness, one is no different than these leaves who cling to the tree waiting for life to happen to them while repeating life patterns inscribed in the genetic codes.  There is no will to change the conditions; there is no power to change the conditions of life.  But, for a human, consciousness is an option.

I want to return to James Hollis who talks about this issue of fate and consciousness:

The concept of individuation represents Jung’s myth for our time in a sense of a set of images which guide the soul’s energies.  Simply put, individuation is the developmental imperative of each of us to become ourselves as fully as we are able, within the limits imposed on us by fate.  Again, unless we consciously confront our fate, we are tied to it.  We must separate who we are from what we have acquired, our de facto but false sense of self. “I am not what happened to me; I am what I choose to become.”  This sentence must be conscious to us each day if we are to become more than prisoners of our fate.”  (Hollis, The Middle Passage, p. 97)

Hollis’ words are clear.  There is no room for blame other than to blame oneself for feeling like a prisoner.  We might be in a real prison because of some foul play we have inflicted upon our world, but while in that prison, we can chose consciousness rather than blindness as we navigate the remaining days.  We might be a recently divorced “over-the-hill” person lost in regret or we can see that our new condition is actually a doorway into a new way of being with ourselves.  It is about attitude, an attitude that comes with consciousness.

It is easy to blame others for what happens to us.  Indeed, others do commit bad acts on our persons and on our conditions of living.  These acts of others and of nature on us aren’t denied or trivialized.  What is critical is one’s attitude with the life one finds oneself living.  Are we defeated or are we still alive?  As the old expression goes, “to not choose is a choice.”  Should we not choose to become the fullness of self, then we choose to be a victim of fate.  And now, a few final words on the topic of being a victim and how to change one’s attitude as well as one’s fate:


by Portia Nelson


I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
but, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.


I walk down another street.


4 Responses

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  1. I was halfway through reading this when “Victim Complex’ came to mind – then you say the word yourself ! One of my teachers as ‘much into this’ viz. it is a major Archetype for our times. I forget all the reasons why it is so, but I agree. Besides being easy , it is lazy. The real work of Self responsibility (pun intended) is hard work, as we know!


    June 5, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    • Maybe it is too hard for most people . . . and, I don’t say this in order to demean or dismiss the lack of energy, faith and hope that has battered so many leaving them convinced that the work would be wasted anyway.

      Robert G. Longpré

      June 6, 2010 at 3:35 pm

  2. I just finished watching the movie, Invictus, named after a poem by William Ernest Henley. It was the story of Nelson Mandela. He told of his spending 30 years in prison and what got him through was the thoughts in this one poem:

    Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

    In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll.
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.

    William Ernest Henley

    Talk about inspiring! If you have not seen the movie, have a look.


    June 6, 2010 at 5:18 am

    • I think I need to get this movie for watching when I go back to China in the fall. Thanks, Paul.

      Robert G. Longpré

      June 6, 2010 at 3:32 pm

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